The dubious honour of being the least successful jockey in the Grand National’s rich history probably goes to Cheshire solicitor John Carden.
The solicitor’s poor Aintree record didn’t stop him trying again and again to win the race he loves – nor did it stop thousands of housewives across the UK from having a bet on Carden in the Grand National each year. Though goodness knows why he was so popular in the Grand National betting.
John rode in five Grand Nationals in total between 1974 and 1982. In his first National, he rode Huperade. The horse had been a useful chaser in his time, having completed the National fences completing the course in the famous Topham Trophy just two years earlier.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case in the National for Carden and Huperade, who were brought down at a pile up at the Canal Turn on the first circuit.
Two years later, the pairing was back again. This time, John and Huperade came down at the first and the solicitor had to be taken to hospital, but it didn’t stop horse and jockey trying for third time lucky in 1977 when they fell at the first again. As Aintree Grand National tips go, he wasn’t the best.
By now, Huperade was a little long in the tooth, but the intrepid Carden rode in the 1981 race on Bryan Boru, managing to successfully navigate three fences before the horse called it a day and refused at the fourth.
The following year, Carden returned to the National for his last attempt aboard Rathlek who had completed the previous year’s National. Would it be different this time?
Alas, it was not to be. In fact, Carden came a cropper at his unlucky first fence yet again.
But for those who remember his courage, determination and sheer folly so fondly – John Carden, the National’s most unsuccessful jockey, remains something of a folk-hero.